I hadn’t been to Lake Jocassee all season and I really wanted to head up there. At the last minute I decided to go this past Sunday. I had planned for a simple trip – no GoPro, no deck back, and not even any lunch. It turned out to be simpler than I though, but much, much longer than I had planned. Even so, it was a great day out on the lake.
It being a mid-summer weekend, I knew it would be crowded. I got up at 5:30 to make sure I was there early. I arrived at Devil’s Fork State Park a bit before 7:00 am and there was already a line to get in.
I almost gave up, but soon the gates opened and we headed in. Most of these cars were headed toward the day use area. I was the only one going up to the far boat ramp. When I got there I was in for another surprise. ALL of the parking areas were taken. Since my last visit most of these have now been designated as parking for boat-in camping.
I headed back toward the launch that had been designated for non-motorized boats. It’s a longer paddle to the cool stuff, but I had the whole area to myself. I backed the trailer down and unloaded my boat and gear, then took the first space.
My paddling trip turned out to be much simpler than I had planned. I had forgotten two of my dry backs when had sun glasses, sunscreen, and spare batteries for my cameras. It wasn’t anything that would impact the trip, I decided to continue. At least I had water and all of my safety stuff. I could do without my harmonica.
Since I was launching from a new place I decided on a different route. Usually I head up toward the waterfalls. This time I headed out across the lake angling past the lake cottages and toward the dam.
Just past the park proper are a few of the rare private properties on the lake. There was one house out on a point that would be my dream home. It had multiple levels with views in all directions and even featured an infinity pool.
There were several other houses in this area, but I was surprised that there was still a bit of wild area remaining.
I was at the dam itself. My plan was to cross over to the large granite wall on the other side of the lake. This was an area I’d never paddled before. It was quite a bit of open water to cross, but I made it.
Soon enough I reached the wall. It is impressive, towering at least a hundred feet above the water’s surface. I wondered if it was a natural feature or man-made. I spotted what looked like drill marks on the surface. One online resource I found said that stone for the dam was quarried from this area.
Small sanderling birds flitted along the rocks. I could imagine other birds living in the rocks. Next to the cliff it was quite deep. This makes the Wall at Jocassee a favorite spot for diving. There was a pontoon anchored next to the wall with a group of divers prepared to make the plunge.
My goal had been to make it to the wall. That now having been accomplished, I had to consider the rest of my trip. Since I was already on this side of the lake I decided to explore the coves over here, eventually making my way across north end of the lake I would circumnavigate the big part of Jocassee.
Around the bend from the wall there was a small beach area. A couple of pontoon boats had already claimed that space for the day’s parties. The lake is at full pool, so there weren’t very many beach spots like this available. Even so, there was lots of interesting geology to view.
There were also some fascinating erosional caves. Some of these went back quite deep.
The deep coves are beautiful, with deep green water. If I had a pontoon I’d just pull into one of these, anchor, and dive into the clear water.
Finally I found a small sandy beach all to myself. I pulled up and relaxed a bit, floating the the cool, cool water. All the time I was thinking that this would be a great place to gather with my LCU friends, cooking brats and relaxing with a brew.
I continued on around the lake’s perimeter exploring each deep cove. There were a couple of small waterfalls, but nothing like those at the north end of the lake. I found a couple more interesting beach coves, but these were quickly being filled up with families on boats.
Boat traffic was definitely picking up. There were water skiers and tubers. As noisy as they were and as much wake as they were generating, I don’t blame them for having fun. If I had a motor boat I’d probably be out there myself. However, it’s harder to appreciate the more subtle beauty of the lake at cruising speed.
Some months back I drove up to Jump Off Rock on the Horesepasture Road. I found another road called Bootleg Road heading down to the lake. At the end of it there appeared to be the remnants of an old boat ramp. It looked like it would be an alternate launch. Here are those photos from last October.
On this paddling trip I found that same spot. It does look like an interesting place to launch or even just hang out. It also looks like there was a fire ring from where someone had camped.
I continued on around the Bootleg Road Point. This looked like a perfect spot to pull up and hang out, but even with the heavy boat traffic it seemed no one was taking advantage of it.
Bootleg Point marks the dividing line between the main body of the lake and the arm that goes up toward the Horsepasture River. That’s also the route to Laurel Fork Falls and Mills Falls, two very popular landmarks. Getting across this arm would be like crossing a freeway. I found what I thought was the narrowest spot and headed on across to the Double Springs Mountain area.
At this point I was just paddling. It didn’t pause for many photos, but just kept going. I hadn’t planned on circumnavigating the big part of the lake, but that was now my quest. I ducked into a couple more coves, but eventually made it to the Double Springs Mountain Campground. There were several boats hanging out in that area.
From Double Springs I headed pretty much straight back across to the Devils Fork area. This side of the lake was crowded with kayakers and paddle boarders. Many of these were rentals from the day use area. Almost all were inexpensive big box store brands. I’m not one to be a gear snob and was glad that they had access to this wonderful sport. In truth, their boats probably cost more than what I paid for my used Tsunami.
I got back to the landing hot, tired, and hungry. I’d had a bit breakfast and skipped lunch. For awhile I just sat in the water cooling off before loading my boat onto its trailer. I had succeeded in circumnavigating the big open part of the lake, paddling nearly 12 miles. I had averaged a quick pace of about 3 mph.
As I drove out of the park even more cars were lined up trying to get into Devils Fork. There were rangers either allowing folks in or turning them back. More and more cars with kayaks on top came down the road as I was leaving. I’m sure many of those would be disappointed. Lake Jocassee is a beautiful spot, partly due to its limited access. I’ll just have to remember next time to come on a week day.